26 May 2021

HOW COVID DROVE YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN DIGITISATION AND THE BENEFITS THAT TECH BRING



Author: Harry Kementsezidis, National Business Development Manager, Yojee

There is consensus among the large consulting firms – including KPMG, EY, and McKinsey– that COVID-19 has had a great impact on the digital journey of most companies. How hard is COVID stepping on the accelerator pedal in yours?

 

The New Pace of Your Supply Chain Transformation

KPMG states that the firm has seen how the pandemic has shortened decades to a few months of their clients’ digital transformation. This includes supply chain digitisation. McKinsey agrees with KPMG that COVID-19 speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years. 

Indeed, per McKinsey’s research, increasing use of advanced technologies in operations was expected to take about 672 days before COVID, while it took 26.5 days on average considering the pandemic’s impact. This represents a 25 multiple acceleration factor. Similar findings apply to building redundancies in the supply chain that has an 18 multiple accelerator factor – from 537 days to 29.6 days.

 

The Reasons Behind the Race

In its article “How COVID-19 impacted supply chains and what comes next”, Ernst & Young highlights that in uncertain economic environments, companies often slow down or stop their technology investments. This was not the case with COVID, as 92% of the surveyed companies continued their digital path.  

This is indicative of how a digital supply chain is the vehicle for greater visibility, efficiency, and resilience amidst the disruptions during the pandemic and still today. With COVID-19, pitfalls in corporate strategies and existing problems in the supply chain – including inefficient and ineffective management – became evident.

 

Supply chain challenges were not new and what the pandemic did was accelerate such challenges. For example, the delay of essential supplies, like personal protective equipment, uncovered the need for supply chain digitisation to improve real time visibility including status and location. The same applies to consumer products, such as toilet paper, canned goods, and flour, among others, that stores could not keep up with the increased demand in the early days of the pandemic.

Companies that have had the most successful response to COVID were those that were first in their industry to experiment with new technologies during the crisis and invested more than industry peers in digital-related capital expenditures, per McKinsey’s findings.

 

Technology for a Failproof Supply Chain

What do the following technologies have in common?

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  • The Cloud
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Drones
  • Blockchain

They can help you to achieve greater visibility, efficiency, and resilience in your supply chain. 

 

Visibility

Ernst & Young’s research suggests that supply chain visibility becomes the number one priority over the next three years. The concept of supply chain has evolved from a linear supply chain to more integrated networks connecting many players. The importance of visibility lies in the power of taking action and thus becoming a responsive and agile supply chain.

AI and IoT are great enablers for visibility and extend beyond the four walls of your company. With them, you can boost productivity, improve order tracking, streamline warehouse processes, and improve customer service.

For instance, you may use different freight forwarders or carriers for your shipments. With AI power tracking solutions, you have the visibility to all your network, no matter the carrier you are using.  This is critical for responding fast when changes occur. If you detect that there is a delay with your shipment and that the ETA has changed, you may decide to use air freight for some of the units instead of bringing all your cargo via ocean. You can also note how relevant end-to-end visibility is for customer service. With AI and IoT, you can confidently answer questions such as “where is my order?” or “when am I going to get it”?

 

Efficiency

New technologies allow for greater efficiencies. This becomes meaningful to truly scale your operations. It is not growing by continuing to add resources into the mix that may lead to eroded margins in the end.

There is a video from Walmart that shows how the blockchain technology is significant to accomplish efficiencies in your supply chain. The video illustrates how in minimal time, you can trace down mangos. When these technologies are not in place, the process may be cumbersome and inaccurate with many spreadsheets around.

AI and blockchain provide an immutable data trail that builds transparency and traceability of goods from planning, throughout procurement, manufacturing, to logistics. 

In today’s supply chains, sustainability is of utmost importance. EGS teams need to measure and report on carbon emissions. This may involve navigating through many reporting protocols by using manual calculations, several limited software packages and systems that are no longer adequate for the company’s operations. The blockchain technology, instead, allows for carbon emissions calculations with ease and improved accuracy.

 

Resilience

This concept is intrinsically related to visibility and efficiency. 

Technology also has an important impact on increasing resiliency or responsiveness of a supply chain. Companies take advantage of AI technology across the end-to-end supply chain to help make predictive and prescriptive decisions. If there is a sudden surge in demand, for instance, it is vital that the change is detected and seen by the organization, their suppliers, and their suppliers’ suppliers – beyond Tier 1. All the participants in the network would adjust their supply plans and production schedules accordingly and immediately.  

By facilitating this, technology makes people’s job easier and allows to focus on the issues that require attention; what is referred to as management by exception. Technology also makes supply chains optimized and more efficient.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can make use of technology to boost your productivity, visibility, and resiliency in your supply chain today, just request time to speak with us at Yojee here.

 

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